OPINION – Alexander Ovechkin. Without question one of the greatest hockey players of all time, and arguably the best goal scorer of our generation. He is the Capitals Captain, their leader, and the man his teammates can always turn to. He values his organization and puts team success over personal stats, however that’s not what the rest of the league has always thought of him.
Since Ovi was drafted in 2004, there has been an ugly commentary that followed him. “Ovi is Selfish” “He isn’t a great captain” and before the Caps exorcised their demons and won the Stanley Cup this past season, many blamed all their failures on the all-star player and his lack of leadership.
Sportscaster John Shannon once compared Ovechkin’s attitude to that of Tampa’s Steven Stamkos (Who the Caps eliminated in the ECF this past year)
“[Stamkos] talks about team first. It’s always, ‘we did this.’ …When Ovechkin talks, it’s ‘I did this’. Ovi is selfish. He values individual achievement over team success. He’s Eurotrash.”
Quotes like this were not rare when Ovi’s name was brought up in discussion. Was it jealousy? Maybe xenophobia? Whatever the case, it’s time for this dialogue to cease. In his career, Ovechkin has 615 goals, and 520 assists. Doesn’t seem like a selfish player to me.
Although I feel like Ovi has shown consistent leadership, it’s games like Monday night in Vancouver that show the rest of the world why fans and players alike love him so much. Ovechkin, with a chance for a hat trick, gave up an empty net goal with a quick pass to TJ Oshie. With no safe way for Oshie to pass it back, he reluctantly shot it into the net and sealed the deal for a 5-2 win over the Canucks.
Although Oshie was disappointed that his captain wasn’t able to get the goal himself, Coach Todd Reirden was rightfully impressed by this move. “He could have easily got in the red and tried to score himself and it wasn’t even a thought,” Reirden said. “He passed right to Osh and Osh couldn’t go back to him and that’s the way it worked out. It doesn’t bother him one bit and I think that’s where you see a different player than maybe you saw three or four years ago that is not focused on individual stuff. He’s doing the right thing and he feels if you do the right thing for long enough, you’re going to get rewarded. We were benefactors of that last season with being able to win out at the end. He’s really got a lot of buy-in right now for doing the right thing. I think his leadership is really in the last probably year, year and a half has really gone to a new level.”
All great players continue to grow each season and this is something that all hockey fans have seen in Alexander Ovechkin. Will this be enough to finally shatter the stereotype? Only time will tell.